Have you ever suffered from this nagging fear that being good is not good enough? If yes, you know what it feels like. I do too.
I can’t put a date or remember a day when it started. But since childhood, I had this urge to be perfect at whatever I did. And sadly, my parents took great pride in seeing how perfectly their daughter did everything—whether it was wearing her school uniform or sitting in like a ‘lady’. Their smiles were a source of encouragement. Slowly, like a numbing poison, the urge only grew worse. I wanted to excel everywhere—be the best performer in school, shine amidst a party, be the best daughter and what not.
Even after marriage, everyone in my new family, including my husband, started referring to me as the ‘perfectionist’. What should have been a cause of worry, only seemed to please me. The same urge for perfection persisted and I started balancing work and life like I was born for it. But slowly things started falling apart and how!
Every time, I saw a lag, be it my personal, specifically my marriage, or professional life, something inside me used to snap. My husband had a feeling that whatever he did, be it a surprise dinner or a vacation, nothing seemed to match my standards. I would appreciate his gesture, but that little critic inside me, the devil, will rear her head and will always find something lacking. It’s not that I enjoyed doing it but I just could not help it.
And the biggest challenge came when I became a mother. My perfectly balanced world seemed to spin off the axis and things started happening, which were beyond my control and liking. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and the doctor said it will wear off gradually. But I was too impatient and wanted my perfect life back.
It was during those tumultuous days, I met my husband’s aunt. Something about her calm composure rubbed off on me and it didn’t take long before we became friends. She was a divorcee in her mid-sixties and is a motivational speaker. She told me about her ugly marriage and how her once perfect life turned into hell. We started talking about life and our expectations from it every day. Somehow she sensed that I was walking on a dangerous precipice. Something she said stuck with me forever—“In our pursuit for perfection, we overlook the things that are already perfect. How often do you wake up and appreciate a perfect sunrise or the perfectly brewed cup of coffee? Doesn’t your child’s toothless smile, melt your heart? Or, appreciate the warm hug you receive from your husband after he returns home? No wonder that sunrise would remind you of another tedious day that lies ahead and you might feel sad about it. Or you will miss the toothless smile of your child because you would be busy doing something else. As your husband hugs you, you would rebuke him of returning home late or complain about the things that need to be done. Happiness lies in the small things we have in our life, we don’t need to work to be happy.”
Do you know what’s the biggest challenge for a perfectionist? It’s to stop looking for perfection. But I am learning to take every day as it comes. I have embarked on a new journey where being perfect is my least priority. It’s difficult but I am sure I will make it.
–By Priya Gulati